Moderate Hiking Routes

Lake Ann: A moderate hike with open meadows and impressive views of the Three Apostles peaks and Mount Huron. Lake Ann is known for its sparkling turquoise water and serves as a wonderful location to soak in the Colorado Rockies while fishing or eating a picnic lunch.   

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 7.6 miles round trip (from 4WD trailhead)
  • Elevation: 10,560 ft. – 11,811 ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 1,251 ft.
  • Recommended Map: Latitude 40◦ Maps: Salida / Buena Vista
  • Directions: To reach Lake Ann, head north out of Buena Vista on Highway 24 North for about 15 miles as you head toward Clear Creek Reservoir. Turn left to travel west on County Road 390 and continue for about 11.6 miles. Once you reach the ghost town of Winfield, turn left onto a small dirt road (FR 390.2B). After 0.1 miles, you’ll see a parking and camping area to your left. If you don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you’ll have to park here and hike about 2 miles to the trailhead. If you do have a four-wheel drive vehicle, continue 2.1 miles on a rough section of road to the trailhead (when you reach 0.7 miles past Winfield, the road becomes a junction where you must turn right). Stay on this road until you see the parking lot.
  • Route Info: Once you reach the trailhead, you’ll see the route to Mount Huron on the left and the route to Lake Ann on the right (behind the trailhead sign). The beginning 1.7 miles of the route is relatively flat, and you’ll cross a couple trickling streams. At 1.6 miles, stay to the right, as there is a fork between Lake Ann/Continental Divide Trail on the right and the Apostles Trail to the left (a sign will clearly mark this split). At 3.2 miles, you’ll find a waterfall towards your left; you must cross it to get to the trail on the other side. The route will get quite a bit steeper after the waterfall and will switchback. As you ascend up the tundra face, you’ll start seeing views of the beautiful valley. At mile 3.7, you’ll come to another fork in the trail. Stay left and continue another 800 feet until you reach to the lake (the right trail leads to the Continental Divide). 

Lake Hartenstein: A beloved area for both summertime hiking and snow shoeing in the winter, Lake Hartenstein is a moderate to difficult trek with 1,750 feet of elevation gain. You’ll cross several streams and pass stunning overlooks on the way to the lake. Once you reach Lake Hartenstein, you’ll soak views of the fresh water and surrounding mountain peaks, including Turner Peak which rests at 13,232 feet. 

Lake Hartenstein is within an easy distance from downtown Buena Vista and is accessed by the Denny Creek Trailhead, one of the major entry points of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. This trailhead leads not only to Lake Hartenstein but also to Mount Yale, Browns Pass and Kroenke Lake.

Hike northwest on the trail for about 1.25 miles, and you’ll see a sign that indicates the junction between Mt. Yale and Lake Hartenstein. Stay left at the fork to head towards Lake Hartenstein, and you’ll see another sign in about 0.6 miles that indicates the junction between the lake and Browns Pass. Keep left and continue for about 0.5 miles on the Lake Hartenstein trail. The lake will be about 2.3 miles from the trailhead.

If you choose to go right at the last junction, you’ll head towards Browns Pass (12,000 ft.) which is located on the Continental Divide. Browns Pass is about 3.2 miles from Denny Creek Trailhead. The trail continues past Browns Pass, heads toward Kroenke Lake, and then descends into the North Cottonwood drainage.

  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Length: 4.6 miles round-trip
  • Starting Elevation: 9,900 ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 1,750 ft.
  • Recommended Map: Latitude 40◦ Maps: Salida / Buena Vista
  • Directions: From the traffic light in Buena Vista, go west for about 12 miles on Main Street/County Road 306 and travel until you see the Denny Creek Trailhead on the right.

Photo: Spencer Penfield

Browns Lake: A stunning alpine lake with incredible views surrounding the water. The Browns Creek Trail will lead you through a breathtaking meadow, and you’ll see and hear the trickling creek for much of your hike. After about 2.5 miles, look for a sign that indicates a waterfall and veer to your left to view the gorgeous falls. If you want to make this hike easier, stop at the waterfall to take a break or eat lunch, and then head back the way you came, making it a 5 mile round trip. Continue another 3.5 miles to the lake if you want a tougher hike or if you want to stop for a night of camping.  Browns Lake is a great place to base camp before peaking Mount Antero.

  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Length: 12 miles round-trip (5 miles round-trip if you stop at waterfall)
  • Starting Elevation: 8,900 ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 2,400 ft.
  • Recommended Map: Latitude 40◦ Maps: Salida / Buena Vista
  • Directions: From downtown Buena Vista, travel east on US Highway 24 (heading towards Salida). After about 2.4 miles, US-24 East will turn into US-285 South. Continue about 8.8 miles until you reach County Road 270. Turn right onto County Road 270 and continue for about 1.5 miles, and then continue straight onto County Road 272. After about 2 miles, turn left to stay onto County Road 272. Keep following County Road 272 until you reach the Browns Creek trailhead. Total driving time from downtown Buena Vista should be about 30 minutes.

Ptarmigan Lake: A beautiful hiking and fishing destination set in the Sawatch Mountain Range. If you visit the lake in July, you’ll see some of Colorado’s finest wildflowers. The views at the lake are incredible, as Ptarmigan Lake is set at the foot of Jones Mountain. This route serves as a great day hike and is also a great location to pitch your tent for the night.  You can even peak Jones Mountain (13,221 ft.) if you want to view the lake from above and see the peaks of Mount Yale, Mount Columbia, and Mount Harvard. 

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 6.6 miles round-trip
  • Starting Elevation: 10,700 ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 2,400 ft.
  • Recommended Map:
  • Directions: From the traffic light in downtown Buena Vista, travel west on Main Street/County Road 306 for about 14 miles until you reach the Ptarmigan Trailhead on the left side of the road.  
  • Route Info: As you start on the Ptarmigan Lake Trail, you’ll cross a bridge and climb past two boulder fields (one at 0.2 miles and one at 0.7 miles). Once you’re about 1.45 miles in, you’ll cross over a Forest Service Road. At about mile 2.8, you’ll pass through a meadow to the lower lake and will find a second pond below the shelf. Continue on the trail until you reach Ptarmigan Lake (the largest lake), located about 3.3 miles from the trailhead.  

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